CAIRO // Egypt's army chief yesterday explained his decision to remove Mohammed Morsi from office, in his first public remarks since the former president was deposed on July 3.
Addressing an armed forces gathering in Cairo, Gen Abdel Fattah El Sisi said Mr Morsi had lost legitimacy because of the mass demonstrations against him.
Gen El Sisi said that in the days running up to Mr Morsi's ouster, the military had urged the former Islamist president to hold a referendum on his rule.
"I sent delegates to the former president ... to call for a popular referendum, and the response was total rejection," the army commander said.
Gen El Sisi said the military had a duty to maintain "a distance from politics" but that its national responsibility forced it to act against Mr Morsi, who it says did not represent the will of the Egyptian people.
The army chief said his role was temporary and blessed by some of Egypt's most prominent religious and opposition figures.
"The Egyptian military is preparing to complete its work and is apolitical. It has laid down a future plan which facilitates the right of free choice and this plan was blessed before the Egyptian people through its main representatives," Gen El Sisi said.
"I don't want to dwell long on the past, but on the present and on the future, because that is what we are able to choose and we deal with it in a way the people want," he said.
"All the political powers of the people now stand at a crossroads."
Supporters of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood are furious at the military intervention, and some foreign governments, including the United States and Germany, have criticised the army's crackdown on the movement.
"The guy is either lying or his troops are operating without his knowledge, because the only thing we're seeing from him are arbitrary arrests, confiscation of assets and killing of our protesters," said Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El Haddad, in response to Gen El Sisi's speech.